I feel as if I have been beaten.... I'm still trudging on, but my body, mind, and heart are just exhausted. The last three or four days (not to mention the last 3 or 4 months) have been absolutely brutal.
On Monday night while talking to Dad, I found out that something had happened to my Grandma W. who has lived the last decade or more with my aunt in Idaho. We weren't sure what, and Mom and Dad had had a rough day of too much time in the hospital, so I called Aunt Kathy to get to the bottom of things. I found out from her that Grandma had had a stroke. She was responsive, and ornery... though she was having some trouble processing her words... Aunt Kathy sounded more worried than normal though. I wasn't sure what we were looking at. I went to bed with a bad feeling in my stomach, but thinking "Ok, this is just a stroke... Gramma bounces back. We'll get through this. She still has to meet her great-granddaughter."
I was still sleeping at 8:30 the next morning when my phone rang. It was my cousin Luke. He was very, very upset and I could tell it was about Gramma. I knew I was missing part of the puzzle--it was just a stroke, right? No... Gramma was dying. We had hours left. A few phone calls later I found out that she had been doing well the night before, but in the middle of the night she started bleeding internally. Her blood count when they were deciding what to do was down to 4. The best decision seemed to be to make Gramma comfortable and let her go.
So here I sat. 9 months pregnant. Baby coming any day now. I was pushing the envelope when I went to IL for weeks 34 and 35 of pregnancy. Travelling to gramma by plane was completely out. Travelling 10 hours by car didn't sound like a wise idea either, did it? I called our Doula, "Don't do it. You could have this baby any day" (this from the same woman who has been telling me I have weeks left and that this baby won't come anytime soon). I called my doctor, "Travelling that far is highly unadvisable. You will either get a blood clot or go into labor" (Really--it'll be an either or scenario?). And then... there was my husband. I may be dumb enough to travel 10 hours when I'm full term, but not dumb enough to do it alone.
At this point let me explain that my Grandparents lived most of their lives near where I grew up. That was "home" to them. So... Bizarrely, I knew that my whole family would be heading to my hometown for the funeral and I would not. I can't explain to you what a helpless feeling it is to be 39 weeks pregnant... knowing that general wisdom says STAY PUT NO MATTER WHAT... knowing that getting to my Grandmother--before she passed or after--meant a 10 hour car ride, and that there was no way to get to my hometown for the funeral to grieve with my family. On top of that, I know how sick my Mom is... I know that the family will converge upon her house. I know that her and Dad aren't up to it. I know that now she will need to grieve the loss of her mother on top of fighting for her life. I want so badly to be there to help them walk through that. Was there nothing I could do???
Andy came home and we tried to figure out what to do... after crying a lot and hashing it through I realized I HAD TO GO. Whether I got there before Gramma died or after, I HAD TO GET THERE. So... we went about looking into logistics. For once, we felt taken care of by the Navy. Before Andy had even called work back, he was set up with 4 days special lib (he is very low on leave because of baby coming and needs this year). But... we had to call the Red Cross and get an emergency call in. I won't even tell you the whole story about the Red Cross phone call. Let me say that I am VERY GRATEFUL for the service they provide in helping servicemembers and their families connect when there are emergencies.... but they need to have people who know something about the military on the other end of the phone and they need to realize that when people are in the midst of emergencies they don't have time to spend an hour on the phone answering assinine questions and having to clarify that the servicemember in question is in the NAVY not the AIR FORCE or the ARMY (something I tried to make clear in the beginning of the call).
After... throwing our world together and finally straightening things out (and thumbing my nose at my doctor...), we were on our way. Let me pause to say that... packing a car knowing that you a preparing for the death of one family member and the birth of another is completely surreal. The car was packed to the gills with... well, all we would need to deal with a few days of what you do in life after a person dies, and... bags for the hospital, a car seat, baby clothes--just in case the baby came along the way.
Then, Aunt Kathy called and told us Gramma was gone. I debated for a little bit about whether we should go at that point... but something in me knew I needed to be with my family and to take part in the process of saying goodbye to Gramma in some capacity.
So... we headed out to Idaho. It was a long ride... 10 hours... Heavy with my unborn child and thoughts of how she would never meet one of the most extraordinary women to have helped to shape my life. Knowing that I had been excited about moving to this part of the country because I would get to visit my gramma, and that despite our being here 9 months, we hadn't been able to do so yet... and knowing that I promised I would bring my gram her great-granddaughter to see as soon as she was here... and that I wouldn't be able to fulfill that promise.
I made the right choice... I did need my family--even if it was just the small part that gathered in Idaho. I was able to contribute to the bigger picture of our grieving as a family and doing the business of things that need done when a person dies. Most importantly, I was able to say good-bye to my grandmother... We went to the funeral home handling things in Idaho and we were able to see Gramma. I whispered the name of our daughter to her... She is the only one who knows her name, and will be the only one who knows until she gets here.
Yesterday we helped with odds and ends before we headed back here, and my Idaho family headed to the airport to go back to my hometown. And then we travelled the long 10 hours back. Guess what--despite my doctor's and doula's fears the baby didn't come and I didn't get a blood clot. She may be here anytime now.
I figure maybe Gramma left when she did because she didn't know of another way to be with me when the baby is born... This way at least her spirit will be able to hover with us when she comes into the world. That is a comfort.
But I still feel beaten... I can't explain to anyone what it is like to be 9 months pregnant, to be fighting with my mother for her life against the beast of Stage 4 lung cancer, to know that my husband has only weeks left with me before a potential 10-12 months apart (with short reprieves in the beginning only), and to lose my grandmother days before my daughter comes into the world. The vast majority of people in my life have no idea that the last 3 days even happened. For all they know, I've been sitting at home just waiting and preparing for my daughter to arrive (I have to admit a part of me thinks that's what life should have let me do). Those I have talked to don't seem to have any concept of how... very wearying juggling all of these major life complications and worries and fears and realities are. I almost feel as if the general consensus feels I should just be trudging merrily along (after all I'm having a baby and that's great, right?). This is something I can't understand because I've seen a good deal more space to deal with things given people tackling things one at a time rather than all at once. I feel very alone, very tired, and as I keep saying... beaten up.
But I'm not down and out. I'll pop up before the 10 count is done. I'll give birth to this little girl... I'll deal with her daddy leaving...I'll hold the knowledge close to my heart that my gramma loves us and is with us even after death, and that my mom loves us and is with us even from a distance... I'll get to my mom to spend as much time as I can with her... I'll do what needs doing... and I'll keep finding out that I'm stronger than I ever imagined. (And I'll try to drown out the voice that says that it other people don't seem to think things are as tough as they are, so maybe I really am just being a baby).
I'll do all this because that's the other thing I am finding that I feel lately. When I don't feel like collapsing into a puddle of tears... or throwing up my hands and saying, "I'm done," I confess to feeling a small amount of pride. Am I broken? Yes... I become a little more so each day I think. But... to put it in the words of one of my favorite verses, "I am pressed, but not crushed, persecuted not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed." I will keep going until Abba says stop. I will rest when I am able. I will fight when I am able. I will cry when I must, and laugh when the moments afford. But I will keep going. I have kept going. And I think that's something worth being proud of.